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Saturday, June 13, 2015

PEARL -- Movie Review by Porfle

Way, way low-budget urban crime and violent-revenge thrills highlight the blood-splattered character study PEARL, aka "Pearl: The Assassin" (2013), directed by first-timer Guy Patton and starring his wife Dana in the title role. 

The story gets right into the swing of things with Pearl cleaning up after what must've been one heck of a pool hall melee by shooting one guy execution style and beating another to death with a pipe.  (Later she'll slit a pimp's throat with a straight-razor for good measure.)

After this cheerful opening we'll get intermittent flashbacks of whatever event it was that has driven her to get bloody revenge against dealers, pimps, and other lawbreakers, with much of it hinging on some drug-filled teddy bears.  This will bring her into direct conflict with the city's baddest drug lord, Tre (Justin Brown), and his big, scary henchman Swiss (Robert Pettiford), neither of whom you'd want to run afoul of.

Fortunately, the movie isn't all grim and ghoulish, since there's some amusing character interplay between grizzled old homicide detective Wyatt (George Morafetis) and an enthusiastic young CSI examiner named Trunks (Johnathan Fernandez) who thinks crime scenes are fun. 

As the hard-luck Erik, a brainy but flaky meth addict who makes the stuff for Tre in order to feed his habit, Scott Michael Morales also gives even the grittiest scenes a twinge of edgy comedy, particulary early on when Pearl keeps wrapping him in duct tape and threatening to dismember him if he doesn't cooperate with her. They eventually evolve into an entertainingly incompatible team, and we discover that even Erik has personal reasons for wanting to bring down Tre.

Pearl can't fight for beans, which is fitting since the director can't choreograph fight scenes for beans either.  But he does fairly well with the bang-bang stuff and other nasty violence, including shoot-outs, explosions, etc., with an economy that cleverly hints at more than is actually shown.  The script, which the Pattons collaborated on together, also generates enough tension to get us through the slower spots between the action. 

The rest of the supporting cast is good, including Jeff Kim as a benevolent young priest named Daniel who grew up with Pearl and grudgingly helps in her mission, to his eventual regret.  Justin Brown makes for a good bad guy as Tre, whose utter ruthlessness is shockingly captured in his first scene when we see how he deals with the happy news of his girlfriend's pregnancy.

Dana Patton is somewhat one-note in the title role, although to be fair the character is pretty much written that way.  At any rate she carries herself well as the sad-faced but unflinching avenger.  

(I reviewed a barebones screener for this Indican Pictures DVD release and thus can't comment on any tech specs or bonus features.)

Despite an abrupt ending and sparse production values that some viewers will find off-putting, PEARL is a fairly engaging showcase for a promising director working within a very limited budget.  Not a great film by any means, but an okay way to pass the time until a better one comes along.


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